THE name ‘Mary Anne Vaz’ may not ring a bell but in the Sarawakian art scene, she is big.
Not only is Vaz a self-taught artist who has won numerous competitions, she is also an advocate of art as a medium to nurture creativity and lucid thinking in children.
The 54-year-old holds a degree from Universiti Malaya and a masters in education from Flinders University in Adelaide, south Australia.
Self taught: Artist Vaz believes art plays an essential part in
shaping a child’s personality and creative thinking.
Walking the talk, Vaz has turned her home at Permyjaya in Miri into the Young Artist Studio where young talented children, and adults get the chance to learn, share and realise their potential in art.
Vaz, a Eurasian, was born in Penang but moved to Miri following her Kelabit husband.
The mother of three is thankful to her parents who were very supportive of her talent - her late father Joseph Edward Vaz served in the Penang state secretariat and later private secretary to the nation’s first Prime Minister the late Tunku Abdul Rahman, was an ardent fan.
At the age of six, Vaz won the Queen’s Gold Medal in a national competition. At 16, she won the prestigious Nehru Award at the Shanker International Art Exhibition. She also topped many competitions in Penang from 1966 to 1973.
Vaz’s artwork, together with pieces from two other artists including Afi Saiful Anuar are currently being exhibited at Pustaka Miri until Dec 30.
Flash back: Newspaper cutting on Vaz when she was 16 years old
after she won the prestigious Nehru Award.
“We need a space which allows the interaction of minds and talent. I believe that there are lots of talented young people out there but sometimes due to ignorance their talents are not nurtured properly. It will be a sad moment when talents are lost in this too regimented environment of ours which does not allow thinking out of the box personality to bloom,” said Vaz, herself a former child prodigy in art.
StarMetro sat down with her to find out more.
Question: How do you look at art?
Answer: To me art is a medium of my self expression. It’s like writing or public speaking. It sort of brings out the inner thoughts and feelings to the surface and translated into artwork, speeches or even articles.
Q: Did you receive any formal training in painting?
A: No. Fleeting moments of beauty stay in my heart and inspire me to paint to share these pictures in my mind. I paint moments of wonder and enchantment that I experience. In order to express how I feel for what I see, I tend to paint lesser known birds and personal experiences of intense beauty such as the first time I saw a hornbill dance, a parang with a tree bark sheath in Bario and a Penan man carrying a deer.
One of Vaz’s
favourites - a
carrying a deer.
Q: What type of medium do you usually paint on?
A: Although I use batik, I am striving for a more ceramic and lithography effect. I use wood colours and pastel hues that are soft and close to nature. People often commented that my paintings have an antique look.
Q: How do you see art scene in Sarawak?
A: Sarawak is a kaleidoscope of hidden beauty and is a heaven for artists. Through art we can share what may be lost with time.
Q: Your most memorable contribution to the art scene here?
A: I have participated in several art exhibitions in Penang and Miri including the opening exhibition launching Pustaka Miri in 2002, exhibitions held in conjunction with the Miri Fest and Gawai 1989-2007 and an art carnival in 2007. The most exciting project I did to date in collaboration with Pustaka Miri was to pioneer an e-book titled Discover Sarawak documenting the development of a great Sarawakian artist Tan Wei Keng in 2007.
Q: Why do you believe that children should be exposed to art?
A: I believe art can develop a child’s right brain which also involved writing skills and personality development. We have about 20 children coming to the studio at anytime in a week. I usually allow the children to decide their own favourite colour. I would like the children to realise that they cannot be over dependent upon what they learn from adults and that they must develop their own skills. These ultimately will nurture creative thinking and exploratory minds.
When they come to jam at the studio, we also carry out other activities like music, vocal training, piano recital and even baking sessions for the little ones. It’s more fun but at the same time a learning experience to the children.
Q: Please tell me more about this Young Artist Studio of yours?
A: I started the studio in 2002. I believe that we need a place for young children and adults to interact. I am very passionate about the idea of scouting for gifted children and to nurture them because I believe that if we are able to nurture these young minds, they will build a much better world of tomorrow.
Q: What kind of activities do you encourage in the studio?
A: Basically, we will assess what kind of activities that the child would like to take up. Be it painting, music, singing, writing, public speaking, learning English and even on how to take care of your pets.
Q: How many children are jamming at the studio at the moment and their age group?
A: There are about 20 of them now. They aged from three to teenagers.
Q: What motivates you to help these children in this way?
A: There is no joy like seeing a talented child bloom. To see the happiness in their face when they are able to express themselves with their gifted talent be it art, music, gift of gab, mathematics, science, writing and many more.
Q: In your opinion what are the main obstacles in discovering whether a child is gifted?
A: Many parents may not realise that their child is gifted. So the main obstacles are ignorance as well as poor observations of a child’s behaviour and personality by the parents or teachers.
Actually art can be used as another dimension to explore talent. In gifted education I learned over excitability that is people with high intellectual potential tend to have extreme activity in all dimensions. I mean they think more, move more, interested in many things and actually see more details when they look around them, and they feel deeply. If both parents are high achievers, their kids could be high achievers too. This was a concept that emerged with a study on high achievers in Europe after WWII.
However, many talents are lost if not discovered and nurtured at youth.
Q: What is your ultimate dream in life in relation with your multi-faceted passion (art activist, child educator to public speaking) and to nurture gifted children?
A: I would like to cooperate with parents and teenagers to develop gifted education. It can emerge from the home as developing thought can be done by networking online. However, to a certain extent face to face encounters are important. I would like to develop gifted education at a global level as it is possible now to link minds and hearts. I believe that these emerging leaders can build a better world if we nurture each other across borders. Those who are willing to share these dreams can contact me firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 013-8370568. Ideas are welcome at these blogs: eagleslead.blogspot.com / borneoartist.blogspot.com / maryannesstories.blogspot.com